Aerial photograph of the Immaculate Conception Chapel

Change of Status to F-1

If you have lawfully maintained your current status, are in a visa status that allows for a change of status from within the United States, and have been admitted to or are currently attending the University of Dayton, you are eligible to file a petition for a change of status via U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Typically, individuals in the United States in other statuses apply for a change of status to F-1 after receiving admission to the University. Some non-immigrants who are in a status that allows for study (ex: H-4, J-2) begin their programs at the University of Dayton in that status and then change to F-1 at a later date. ISSS is only able those who are eligible for a change to F-1 status. For all other change of status requests, consult an immigration attorney.

Students changing status from within the United States must meet with an International Student Advisor in ISSS to file the application with USCIS. Additional documentation required for the application will vary depending on current immigration status. Before you schedule your appointment to meet with ISSS, consider the following:

  • Eligibility. You must be in a status that allows you to change status from within the United States, currently maintaining that status, and accepted to or enrolled in an academic program. A person of any non-immigrant status except C, D, K, or M (and in some cases J), and except those who entered the United States under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program, can apply for a change to F-1 status if s/he has maintained lawful non-immigrant status up to the time of application. In addition, those with J status with the two-year home country physical requirement may not change status in the U.S. unless a waiver has been granted.
  • Timing. You must apply before your current status expires. In the case of changing from some statuses, such as H-1B, you are required to maintain your current status while the change is pending. In these cases, there must be no more than 30 days between the abandonment or expiration of your current status and the start date of your requested status.
  • Dependent child status. If you are a dependent child under the age of 21, you may continue to study full-time in that dependent status up to the age of 21. Your parent(s) must currently live in the United States and be maintaining the status upon which you are dependent.
  • Travel. An approval only changes your status within the United States. The next time you make international travel plans you will still need to go through the standard process to apply for a new student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to re-enter the United States in F-1 status. Travelling abroad while a change of status application is pending is considered to be an abandonment of the application and will affect your SEVIS record. If you decide to leave the United States while the application is pending, you should consult ISSS. Our office will provide guidance on how to cancel the pending change of status application and obtain a new or amended Form I-20 for travel.
  • Denials. If your change of status application is denied, you may need to leave the United States immediately.
  • On-campus employment. You cannot receive the benefits of student status until the change of status is approved. In other words, if you have accepted a fellowship or teaching assistantship, you will not be allowed to fulfill the requirements of that position and receive the stipend until you are actually in F-1 status.

Timing plays an important role in the change of status process. In some cases, changing your status by travel is the best option. Schedule an appointment with ISSS to explore your options.

Definitions

Change of status (COS). Changing from one non-immigration status to another.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS adjudicates all change of status requests.

I-20. A document issued by a college or university certifying that an international student has been admitted to a program of study and has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S. The I-20 is officially titled the "Certificate of Eligibility" because with it, you are "eligible" to apply for an F-1 student visa.

I-94. For nonimmigrant visitors entering the United States with a visa, there is a requirement to fill a Form I-94 (a white form, usually stapled in your passport). Form I-94 is a departure record and must be returned to U.S. officials upon exiting the United States.

Visa. A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the U.S. generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport. The visa has no bearing on your ability to the stay in the U.S.; it’s only use is for entry into the U.S. After you enter the US, maintenance of your status determines your ability to stay.

Status. Your status is the official U.S. government designation and authorization of your stay in the U.S. as a non-immigrant student.

SEVIS. SEVIS is a web-accessible database that collects, tracks, and monitors information regarding exchange visitors, international students and scholars who enter the U.S. on F, M or J visas. SEVIS is managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Termination. The termination of a SEVIS record invalidates your F-1 status. Terminations are a result of a status violation(s).

Documents to be submitted

I-539. USCIS Form I-539 “Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status” is the official form to change non-immigrant status from within the U.S.

I-539 application fee. A personal check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” for $290.

I-20. An I-20 must accompany a change of status application. ISSS will issue an I-20 for you.

SEVIS I-901 fee. If changing to F-1 status, the SEVIS I-901 fee must be paid. Proof of payment must be submitted with the I-539.

Passport, visa, and I-94. Copies of these and other important immigration documents will be included in the application.

Letter. A short, succinct letter explaining the need for the status change.

Financial documentation. A personal bank statement or affidavit of support showing how you intend to fund your studies.

Process

Before finalizing any plans, schedule an appointment with ISSS to explore your options. Sometimes, changing status from within the U.S. is not the best option.

If it is decided that a change of status from within the U.S. is viable, you will need to prepare the necessary documentation to submit with your application. Once these materials are prepared, schedule a meeting with ISSS. At the meeting, an ISSS advisor will review your application materials. On average, students meet with ISSS at least twice before submitting their application. After the review process is complete, the student will mail the materials to USCIS.

On average, the USCIS approval process takes 2-3 months.

Note: This process will not result in a new visa stamp. Instead, a new I-94 card will be mailed to you—the official designation of your F-1 status. The next time you travel outside the U.S. you will need to visit a U.S. consulate or embassy to request a new visa stamp that reflects your changed status.

Changing status through travel

F-1 status can also be acquired by exiting then re-entering the U.S. In this case, you must apply for the F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Applying at the local embassy or consulate in your home country is recommended. F-1 status may be granted upon re-entry to the U.S. with a valid F-1 visa and I-20 (Canadians are exempt from this visa requirement).